Digestion and the Body

Enzymes Are a Vital Component of the Digestive Process

Enzymes are essential to the body’s absorption and utilization of food. The capacity of the living organism to make enzymes diminishes with age, and some scientists believe that humans could live longer and be healthier by guarding against the loss of our precious enzymes. Enzymes are responsible for every activity of life. Even thinking requires enzyme activity. The two primary classes of enzymes responsible for maintaining life functions are digestive and metabolic. The primary digestive enzymes are proteases (to digest proteins), amylases (to digest carbohydrates), and lipases (to digest fats). These enzymes function as a biological catalyst to help break down food. Raw foods also provide enzymes that naturally break down food for proper absorption. Metabolic enzymes are responsible for the structuring, repairing, and remodeling of every cell, and the body is under a great daily burden to supply sufficient enzymes for optimal health. Metabolic enzymes operate in every cell, every organ, and every tissue, and they need constant replenishment. Digestion of food takes high priority and has a high demand for enzymes. When we eat, enzymatic activity begins in the mouth, where salivary amylase, lingual lipase, and ptyalin initiate starch and fat digestion. In the stomach, hydrochloric acid activates pepsinogen to pepsin, which breaks down protein, and gastric lipase begins the hydrolysis of fats. Without proper enzyme production, the body has a difficult time digesting food, often resulting in a variety of chronic disorders. Poor eating habits (e.g., inadequate chewing and eating on the run) may result in inadequate enzyme production and, hence, malabsorption of food (which is exacerbated by aging because this is a time of decreased hydrochloric acid production) as well as a general decline in digestive enzyme secretion. Saliva is rich in amylase, while […]

Gastrointestinal Symptoms

There are five basic symptoms indicating a GI tract problem. These symptoms are generally associated with dietary problems or specific food allergies. It is critical that anyone suffering from serious GI tract problems work closely with a physician to test for more developed and serious GI tract diseases. The physician should also be experienced in working with dietary factors and food allergies. Nausea and Vomiting Nausea and vomiting can vary from an unsettled feeling in the stomach to the violent action of immediate vomiting. Patients with nausea and vomiting symptoms should assume the ingestion of a reactive food (i.e., food containing toxins) or poisoning with a pathogen such as salmonella. Vomiting immediately after eating is usually proceeded by excessive watery salivation. Some chronic low-intensity nausea can occur for a protracted time due to sustained low-level food allergies or problems with food combinations. Patients with low-level nausea usually have their symptoms disappear with dietary change(s). Nausea and vomiting are also linked with migraines caused by food allergies (see the Migraine protocol). Bloating Bloating can result from excessive gas in the digestive system, failure of the digestive tract to sustain youthful peristaltic contractions, or a lack of sufficient quantities of digestive enzymes and bile acids to rapidly break down food. Intestinal gas results from food fermentation and swallowing air while eating. The bloating from intestinal gas is different from that which occurs in the colon. Constipation Constipation is the decreased frequency or slowing of peristalsis, resulting in harder stools. When the GI tract is slowed down, feces can accumulate in the colon with attending pain and toxic reactions. A spastic colon results when the colon contracts out of rhythm in painful spasms blocking movement of the stool. Some patients experience painful days […]

The Digestive Process

The GI tract breaks down foods by first using mechanical means (e.g., chewing) and then via the application of a host of complex chemical processes (from saliva to colon microbes). Since the GI tract is the point of entry for the human body, everything eaten has an impact on the body. The food eaten and passed through the GI tract contains nutrients as well as toxins. Toxins can include, but are not limited to, food additives, pesticides, and specific foods that induce a reaction from the GI tract. The process of digestion is accomplished via the surface of the GI tract using secretions from accessory glands. The two glands providing the majority of digestive chemicals utilized by the GI tract are the liver and the pancreas. The function of the liver is to control the food supply for the rest of the body by further processing the food molecules absorbed through the intestines. The liver does this by dispensing those food molecules in a controlled manner and filtering out toxins that may have passed through the GI tract wall. Another very important function of the GI tract is as a sensory organ. By rejecting foods through objectionable taste, vomiting, diarrhea, or any combination of these symptoms, the sensing capacity of the GI tract can protect the body. The surface of the GI tract has a complex system of nerves and other cells of the immune system. The surface of the GI tract, or mucosa, is part of a complex sensing system called the mucosa-associated lymphatic tissue (MALT). The immune sensors in the MALT trigger responses such as nausea, vomiting, pain, and swelling. Vomiting and diarrhea are abrupt defensive responses by MALT when it senses foods with […]

Digestion and Metabolism

The rate of one’s metabolism is measured in terms of calories (energy) expended over a specified period of time—usually a day—to conduct all of the body’s necessary functions while at rest. Your metabolic rate is similarly governed by a host of factors. Age, sex, height, weight, body composition (amount of fat mass vs. muscle mass), presence of fever, and levels of various hormone levels—including thyroid and stress hormones—are all factors in determining the resting metabolic rate. Vigorous exercise can increase the resting metabolic rate for a window of time even after the physical activity has ceased. Starvation and malnutrition can dampen the metabolic rate. To date, very few dietary components have been shown to measurably speed up metabolism; among those that have been cited—like caffeine, green tea, and capsaicin—the effect has been miniscule and short-lived. Fiber, a dietary component that speeds up transit time specifically in the colon, is often credited with speeding up the metabolism; in fact, it does no such thing. As described above, fiber only speeds up colonic transit time—it does not influence the rate at which our body’s cells utilize food energy. Similarly, taking laxatives to help you go to the bathroom does not speed up the metabolism such that you’d burn more calories than normal. Why so much confusion between these two distinct bodily processes? There are at least two reasons: First is the misunderstood phenomenon of the post-meal poop. In response to the stimulus of your stomach stretching during a meal, an involuntary wave of motion (called peristalsis) happens in the colon to propel food waste forward, essentially to make room for whatever’s about to come down the pipeline. This normal phenomenon is called the “gastro-colic reflex,” and it can be particularly strong […]

What Is Gastritis?

Gastritis is an inflammation, irritation, or erosion of the lining of the stomach. It can occur suddenly (acute) or gradually (chronic). What Causes Gastritis? Gastritis can be caused by irritation due to excessive alcohol use, chronic vomiting, stress, or the use of certain medications such as aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs. It may also be caused by any of the following: Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori): A bacteria that lives in the mucous lining of the stomach. Without treatment the infection can lead to ulcers, and in some people, stomach cancer. Pernicious anemia: A form of anemia that occurs when the stomach lacks a naturally occurring substance needed to properly absorb and digest vitamin B12. Bile reflux: A backflow of bile into the stomach from the bile tract (that connects to the liver and gallbladder). Infections caused by bacteria and viruses. If gastritis is left untreated, it can lead to a severe loss in blood and may increase the risk of developing stomach cancer. What Are the Symptoms of Gastritis? Symptoms of gastritis vary among individuals, and in many people there are no symptoms. However, the most common symptoms include: Nausea or recurrent upset stomach Abdominal bloating Abdominal pain Vomiting Indigestion Burning or gnawing feeling in the stomach between meals or at night Hiccups Loss of appetite Vomiting blood or coffee ground-like material Black, tarry stools

Treating Acid Reflux from Home

Acid reflux is a chronic health condition caused due to the abnormal reflux of the stomach acid in the esophagus. It is also referred to as gastric acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Acid reflux results from the disorder in the lower esophageal sphincter, which acts as a barrier between the esophagus and stomach. In a normal healthy individual, this sphincter prevents regurgitation of acid and/or food particles from stomach to esophagus, whereas this is not so in the case of an acid reflux patient. The frequent reflux of stomach acid damages the mucous lining of esophagus, leading to various symptoms. The commonly manifested signs of acid reflux are problem in swallowing (dysphagia), regurgitation, heartburn, nausea and at times, chest pain. These symptoms are more frequent after a heavy meal, bending and lying down on the back. Majority of the patients experience severe acid reflux symptoms at night. Acid reflux is diagnosed based on the symptoms and laboratory tests such as endoscopy and chest X-ray. Home Treatment for Acid Reflux Acid reflux should be treated immediately, as a long-term untreated condition can lead to wearing of the protective esophageal lining, known as erosive esophagus. Though there are therapeutic medications for acid reflux, many patients have reported serious side effects of commonly administered medications, especially if taken for a prolonged duration. Another issue with prescribed medications is the recurrence of the acid reflux symptoms, as soon as one stops the treatment. A healthy and effective method to manage acid reflux is by making lifestyle changes and practicing home treatments. Healthy eating habit is an effective way to prevent reflux of stomach acids. A patient with acid reflux should consume several smaller meals, rather than having a large meal […]

Chiropractic Helps Digestive Disorders

Over $80 billion are spent each year on drugs to relieve heartburn, acid reflux, bloating, gas, irritable bowel, constipation, diarrhea and other digestive disorders. These symptoms of abnormal digestive are becoming increasingly more prevalent in our society. Science and research have shown that chiropractic care offers a powerful solution to this modern-day epidemic. The nervous system controls digestive function from several different regions. The vagus nerve which courses out of the brain stem and runs near the atlas bone innervates all the major organs of digestion and functions to stimulate the digestive process. Other major areas controlling the pace of digestion include the sympathetic nerves coming out of the thoracic & lumbar regions and the sacral parasympathetic nerve fibers. Spinal misalignment in any of these regions can lead to neurological compromise and altered digestive function. Wellness oriented chiropractors search for the location of such spinal misalignments termed `subluxations.` A specific chiropractic adjustment realigns the altered regions and restores nerve supply to the deficient organs. This approach honors the body’s innate ability to heal and works to harmonize this incredible life force in order to enhance organ function & quality of life. Several studies have demonstrated the power of chiropractic adjustments restoring optimal function in individuals with digestive disturbances. In a published case study, a young woman had been afflicted with IBS symptoms once or twice a week for 5 years. After one adjustment she noticed an easing of symptoms and within a short time all her digestive problems disappeared. When the report was published 2 years later she was still symptom free. A 2008 study demonstrated how effective chiropractic care is for infants with digestive disturbances. Researchers chose three infants who were experiencing infrequent bowel movements from once […]

Alcohol Slows Digestion

Drinking alcohol with a rich meal slows digestion by as much as 50 percent. - By slowing digestion, alcohol can also make you feel fuller longer, though it’s not clear what that means for nutrient absorption or weight gain. - If you are prone to stomach distress, it might be best to go with water or tea instead. For many people, a glass of wine helps make food feel like it’s going down more smoothly. But drinking alcohol with a rich and fatty meal causes food to linger in the stomach longer, found a new study — leading people to feel fuller over a greater period of time. The findings offer new insight into the complicated and multi-faceted ways that alcohol interacts with digestion and appetite. The study, which analyzed people as they ate cheese fondue, may also help settle a long-standing debate among Europeans about which beverage is best to drink with a popular and festive dish. “In Switzerland and other parts of Europe, there is a big debate when families get together about what they are going to drink with fondue,” said Mark Fox, a gastroenterologist at the Nottingham Digestive Diseases Center in the United Kingdom. He worked on the study while at the University of Zurich. “Half say you should drink white wine because it dissolves the cheese,” he said. “The other half says you should drink warm tea because wine turns the cheese into a solid mass. All are completely old wives’ tales.” Fondue-lovers also argue about whether a shot of spirits after the meal will further reduce the discomforts of eating such a rich and gooey dinner.  Previous studies have shown that drinking an alcoholic beverage before a meal increases appetite and causes people to eat […]

Incomplete Protein Digestion Is Useful for Some Bacteria

Usually indigestion is a bad thing, but experiments by researcher Peter Chien and graduate student Robert Vass at the University of Massachusetts Amherst recently showed that for the bacteria Caulobacter crescentus, partial degradation of a DNA replication protein is required to keep it alive. DNA replication is one of the most highly controlled biological processes in all organisms, says Chien, an assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at UMass Amherst. From humans all the way back to bacteria, all cells must faithfully duplicate their genomes in order to survive. To coordinate the start, ensure the completion and repair damages during DNA replication, specialized proteins play a key role by regulating processes. Protein degradation by energy-dependent proteases normally results in the complete destruction of target proteins, Chien notes. However, under particularly harsh artificial conditions in the test tube, these proteases can stall on certain targets. But until the recent UMass Amherst experiments, such an effect had never been seen inside a living bacterial cell, he adds. In work published this month in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Chien and Vass report that one of these specialized replication factors, DnaX, is, to their surprise, partially digested or trimmed, physically cut into shorter fragments, by an energy-dependent protease known as ClpXP, which generates specific-sized fragments that are essential for Caulobacter’s normal growth. The phenomenon isn’t entirely unknown, Chien explains. Short as well as long versions of DnaX had been observed 20 years ago in another bacteria, E. coli. But in E. coli, the short form was produced by changes in translation due to an early ribosome stop at a specific RNA sequence. That RNA sequence is absent in many bacteria DnaX genes including in Caulobacter, so scientists long […]

What is a Hiatus Hernia?

What Is It? A hernia occurs when part of an internal organ or body part protrudes through an opening into an area where it shouldn’t. A hiatal hernia is named for the hiatus, an opening in the diaphragm between your chest and your stomach. Normally, the esophagus (the tube that carries food to the stomach) goes through this opening. In a hiatal hernia, part of the stomach and/or the section where the stomach joins the esophagus (called the gastroesophageal junction) slips through the hiatus into the chest. There are two types of hiatal hernias: • Sliding — A part of the stomach and the gastroesophageal junction slip into the chest. Sliding hiatal hernias are common, especially in smokers, overweight people and women older than 50. These hernias are related to naturally occurring weaknesses in the tissues that normally anchor the gastroesophageal junction to the diaphragm and to activities or conditions that increase pressure within the abdomen. These activities or conditions include persistent or heavy coughing, vomiting, straining while defecating, sudden physical exertion and pregnancy. • Paraesophageal — The gastroesophageal junction remains in its proper place, and a fold of the stomach slips into the chest, pinched between the gastroesophageal junction and the diaphragm. Of the two types of hiatal hernias, paraesophageal hernias are more likely to cause severe symptoms. Symptoms Sliding hiatal hernias may not cause any symptoms, or they may cause heartburn that is worse when you lean forward, strain or lie down. There may be chronic belching and, sometimes, regurgitation (backflow of stomach contents into the throat). In some cases, a paraesophageal hernia may slide into the chest and become trapped (incarcerated) and unable to slide back into the abdomen. If this happens, there is a danger that the […]